Johnathan Blake — Trion
(Bandcamp Giant Step Arts GSA 002, 2019, 2CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-08-28
Drummer Johnathan Blake’s Trion presents a skilled trio with a lengthy set of thoroughly entertaining jazz. His cohorts are saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Linda May Han Oh, and the three of them are more than capable of sustaining interest and momentum throughout these 13 tracks recorded live over two nights in January of 2018. After a brief, intriguing drum solo, Potter enters with an emotive unaccompanied solo that leads into a surprising cover of “Synchronicity 1,” the 1983 Police track which works amazingly well minus all the synthesizers and vocals. Between them, Potter and Oh cover the essential parts of the piece and take it into previously unimagined territory. Oh’s bass work is nothing short of stunning, providing just the right amount of anchor to the original to remind us what we’re hearing while dexterously filling in hints of the chords. She turns in a superb solo as well. Potter is also great, pushing his tenor to the limits without much in the way of outright screeching. The leader’s drumming is excellent as well, taking a bit of a latin flavor but without any hints of rock. He uses his nicely tuned toms in a very melodic way, and casually includes tricky cross-rhythms that sound completely natural. The track is 16:43 of the best small-group jazz you can find. The remainder of the set consists of originals from each of the members and compositions by Charles Fambrough, Charlie Parker, and John Blake Jr. (the leader’s father). The limited sound-palette of drums, bass, and sax proves no limitation for these three, and they cover a variety of moods and energy levels, from moody solo spots to high-speed post-bop workouts with equal skill and imagination. Really, I can’t think of a recent trio outing I would rank above Trion, and highly recommend it for any jazz fan.
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